04 July 2013

Why Should America Solve Mexico’s Problems?

Every time you see this fallacy you should be mentally appending “(in the United States)”. That’s because nothing the U.S. government does vis-a-vis its border actually deprives people of the right to sell their labor to willing employers whom they are able to contract with in their own countries and legally commute (or perhaps telecommute) to. It only deprives people of the right to sell their labor to willing employers in the United States, should that involve being in the United States. That is a trivial observation though, because it goes without saying that restricting immigration…restricts immigration.
Notice that to place restrictions on who may cross the border also deprives people of their right to, say, practice freely their religion (in the United States). To pursue happiness (in the United States). To ingest legally-obtained food and water (in the United States). Or, for that matter, and more trivially, to hum “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (in the United States). Or to tousle their hair (in the United States). I could cook up example after example. Hopefully after enough of which, unless you’re a dunce you will realize that these purported ‘rights’ all seem awfully dependent on being in the United States. So a speaker who wishes to be intellectually-honest must recognize that to assert that there is a universal right to do all these things – whether employment or anything else – employment is not the only example, far from it! – is nothing more or less than to beg the question and assert that there is a universal human right to come to and stay permanently in the United States.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter:  why do certain libertarians think that the problem of Mexican* employment should be solved by freer American immigration laws?  More to the point, why is at assumed that the solution to the problems facing Mexican workers can even be solved by America’s immigration laws?

In the first place, why do Mexicans even want to work for American companies?  Why don’t they want to work for Mexican companies?  What are the differences between American and Mexican companies that make the former more desirable employers?  Why haven’t Mexican companies replicated those things that make American companies more desirable?

Any honest person, in answering these questions, would have to come to the conclusions that a) there are differences between America and Mexico and b) some of those differences are cultural.  Moreover, the solution(s) to Mexico’s apparent cultural deficiencies are not easily forthcoming (eg. ending government corruption in Mexico in, say, 10 years would be a miracle unto itself).

The more interesting aspect of this subject, though, is the motivations of those who advocate open borders.  There are multiple solutions to the problem of employment mismatches.  There is not necessarily a need for more open borders if something can be done to boost Mexico’s work and business culture to the extent that Mexicans view Mexican employers as roughly fungible with American employers.  Why then do open-borders advocates promote open borders instead of cultural improvement?

I suspect that there are a couple of reasons.  First, some open-borders libertarians are simply reformed progressives; they defend a sort of anarchist definition of freedom, but still hew to an essentially progressive worldview, one that accepts basic progressive tenets.  Thus, they accept cultural relativism, and must therefore deny that culture (and perhaps even race/genetics) has any bearing on any differences whatsoever, and therefore defend open borders since it doesn’t offend their moral sensibilities.  These people are basically SWPLs without the corresponding desire to “help” the less fortunate.

Second, some libertarians may simply be ignorant.  I used to be an open borders defender myself, but I eventually began to consider the issue in terms that were continuous and dynamic instead of binary and static.  When you look at an issue from more than one perspective, you will generally change your mind about the matter, even if the change is subtle.  That open-borders advocates usually argue their position on strictly moral/ethical grounds,** and usually decline to discuss other factors, should indicate that they aren’t really fully considering the matter.  These people are basically ignorant college students.

There are, of course, other types of open-borders advocates, but I think most of them can be described either as apathetic SWPLs or as ignorant college students.  In either event, nuance and broadness is not exactly their strong suit.

In closing, I’d like to note that implementing an anarchist society would likely lead to more segregation, more cultural homogeneity, more localization, a decline in global trade, and more racial insularity.  Once you actually look at why things like multi-national corporations exist, or why people of different races and ethnicities even live near each other, you will quickly find lots of state intervention.  If you were to undo all that state intervention, you would eventually end multi-national corporations, cultural heterogeneity, etc.  The idea that absolute liberty will somehow lead to more diversity is just stupid, and flies in the face of humanity’s rather intractable nature.

* I’m using “Mexican” and “American” as shorthand for the sake of clarity.  The general point of this point will stand if you substitute any other country name in place of either “Mexico” or “America.”

**  Most of the argumentation I’ve seen (though to be fair, I mostly read Bryan Caplan) basically goes like this:  Living wherever you want and working for whomever you want, assuming you don’t use coercive force to attain these things, is an absolute human right.  Therefore, open borders, End of discussion.